What Are You Building?

Nish Gorczyca

Since 2001, The Sam and Marilyn Fox Atlas Week Program has served to highlight issues from around the globe. With Atlas Week 2018 beginning this Friday, this is a perfect time to reflect on SLU’s global reach and an international version of the Jesuit mission.

While SLU is rooted firmly along the banks of the Mississippi, her students hail from more than 70 countries. We have a full campus in Madrid. Our students come from countless combinations of cultures. Even SLU students that have lived their whole lives in the United States often come from rich traditions beyond our shores; hyphenated identities. Irish-American. Chinese-American.

This global diversity on our campus makes our classrooms more vibrant, bringing unique experiences and perspectives to our discussions. American norms that would otherwise go undiscussed are brought to light where they can be analyzed and interrogated. Not only does this contribute to the level of scholarship we are able to engage in on campus, it gives us valuable opportunities to build bridges across difference.

The education we are all lucky enough to receive at Saint Louis University enables us to tackle some of the greatest issues facing our planet from climate change and food insecurity to political violence and economic inequity. In fact, with a privilege like higher education, we have a responsibility to seek solutions to these problems. Truly, this is one of the reasons for the existence of Jesuit higher education. Approaching our disciplines, as varied as they are, with a global lens serves as a reminder of the global humanity that informs the Jesuit mission.

This year’s Atlas Week theme is “From Broken Walls, We Build Bridges: Out of Conflict Rises Community.” The theme connects to the keynote address, “Sons of Lwala: Honoring the Dreams of our Parents” by brothers, Fred Ochieng, MD, and Milton Ochieng, MD. The two arrived from Kenya with plane tickets paid for by their friends and neighbors in the village with the request, “Do not forget us.” The two went on to help build the village’s first hospital in 2007 after both of their parents passed away due to AIDS.

The Ochieng brothers exemplify the spirit of Atlas Week. They used their education to greatly benefit their community by building international relationships. Their story serves as a perfect example of how SLU students can serve communities near and far. Atlas Week’s inspiring slate of events is put on by students and faculty alike, making it easy for attendees to envision how they might work for global change. On this Bicentennial year, Atlas Week is also focusing on celebrating SLU’s own change makers. See those events at the end of this article.

What Atlas Week offers us is an opportunity to celebrate our home cultures and challenge our worldview. With events across all areas of study and regions of the earth, there is something for everyone. I encourage everyone in the SLU community to attend some of the amazing events of Atlas Week and ask themselves, “What bridges am I building?”


12:00 – 1:00 p.m.
“Saint Louis University and Belize 2020: Reflections on a Growing Partnership”
Center for Global Citizenship Auditorium

8:00 – 9:00 a.m.
Tim Rice, M.D. –

“Repairing Broken Walls and Building Bridges in Vanga Democratic Republic of the Congo”
Danis Auditorium, Cardinal Glennon Children’s Hospital

7:00 – 9:00 p.m.
Film: Men in the Arena
“Saadiq Mohammed’s Inspiring Journey to Becoming a Billiken”
Kelley Auditorium

7:30 – 8:30 p.m.
“Breaking the Pipeline and Building Literacy: The Legacy of Dr. Norman White”
Sinquefield Stateroom, DuBourg Hall